Ovarian cancer real lives
Margaret Rose AM
Margaret Rose, AM, is a rare person – she is an ovarian cancer survivor.
‘I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 22 years ago, and my diagnosis was devastating and not very promising’,
‘I did not dare to think of the future, because all advice was, it was unlikely that I had a future. The diagnosis and treatment of this insidious disease left me emotionally and physically gutted – all dignity stripped away. While this was the lowest time of my life, in retrospect, what saddens me most is that my precious family had to endure unbelievable worry as they watched me shrink from a vibrant, loving mother and wife to a miserable creature, barely able to summon the energy to walk or talk at times.’
‘In the 22 years since my diagnosis, I find myself reflecting on this disease and how little progress has been made in improving outcomes for those diagnosed. Research into this devastating disease has not progressed at the same pace as other cancer research. We need financial support for the breakthrough medical research being undertaken by the team at Garvan and we need advocates for increasing awareness about ovarian cancer. We have come so far in our understanding and treatment of many cancers, but there is much work to be done for ovarian cancer and others like it.
‘As an ovarian cancer survivor, mother to two daughters and six granddaughters, I am entirely motivated by my desire to create hope for future generations of women and their families. I am also aware of my responsibility as a survivor to do whatever I can in memory of those less fortunate than myself.’
In an act of outstanding generosity, in 2014, Margaret Rose established the Margaret Rose AM Fellowship in Ovarian Cancer Research. ‘Margaret has also been a tireless advocate and ambassador for Garvan’s research and an inspiration to our scientific community,’ said Geoff Dixon, Chairman of the Garvan Research Foundation. ‘We thank and commend Margaret for her efforts, as well as the entire Rose family, who have been instrumental in raising awareness for this important cause.’
In 2014 Letitia Linke was on top of her world. The 34-year-old mother of two little boys, Ollie 9 and Tommy 8, had achieved a personal goal of losing some 30kg through her sheer determination to have a healthier life and was running her online interiors store and decorating business from the farm she runs with her husband Paul on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.
‘I was feeling fabulous and the best I had in years. Then I discovered a lump in my abdomen that I couldn’t feel before, but I had no other symptoms’
During surgery to treat what were thought to be endometriomas and endometriosis, biopsies of the ovaries revealed ovarian cancer. A week later Letitia had a radical hysterectomy.
‘I had five surgeries in all. I underwent 18 weeks of chemotherapy treatment once a week. I tolerated this reasonably well. It was life as normal other than the chemo day. I then underwent five weeks of radiotherapy, five days a week. I felt fine during this but I live two hours from the treatment centre so had to stay away from my family at times and rely on others to help look after them.’
In late 2015, the cancer recurred, and Letitia is now on monthly second-line chemotherapy.
Aside from polycystic ovarian syndrome, like so many others with ovarian cancer, Letitia had no particular symptoms that she felt needed investigating. ‘Lack of general awareness is a major issue in ovarian cancer,’ she said.
‘There is a huge need for an early detection test to discover ovarian cancer before it is too late, which is so often the problem due to the symptoms going undetected. Also identifying genetic risk may help women at higher risk to follow up and be alert for any signs they do notice.
‘There also needs to be more work in molecular profiling and general understanding of the disease which of course is paramount for any successful treatment.’